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Why Sound Bites Won't Cut It When It Comes to Mideast

The Arab Spring presents the US with a complex landscape of opportunities and dangers. Bruce Riedel writes that American policy makers will need to be agile to capitalize on the opportunities while avoiding the pitfalls, and that sound bites alone won't cut it.  
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (R) and U.S. President Barack Obama speak at the same time during the second U.S. presidential campaign debate in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS USA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION)

The Arab world is in the midst of its most profound revolutionary change in a century. For America, this transformation is a challenging mix of opportunity and danger. It will require an agile and complex policy which often appears to be inconsistent — because it will be inconsistent. Sound bites and slogans are not a solution.

The Arabs have undergone periodic revolutionary upheavals since the Ottoman Empire was destroyed in 1918. In 1979, for example, after the fall of Iran's Shah, revolutionaries tried to topple the House of Saud by seizing the Grand Mosque in Mecca. In 1980, Shia rebels tried to oust then-president Saddam Hussein in Iraq; in 1981, a jihadist cell assassinated the Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, as part of a revolutionary coup attempt and in 1982, Sunni rebels seized Hamah to topple Syria's then-president, Hafez al Assad. In every case, the regime survived and the secret police destroyed the rebels.

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